If you are thinking about growing okra, this might just be the right time. Okra is also known as ladies finger and Bhindi (in India). The edible part of the plant is the pointed seed pods. Okra as a vegetable is very nutritious. It has a very mild flavor. But, the first thing you will notice about okra is its slimy texture. This is probably one of the main reasons why okras are not so popular among people.
If you are one of such persons, we have some good news for you. If you want you can grow okra solely as an ornamental plant. They have very beautiful hibiscus-like flowers.
Here are some of the most popular okra varieties, these are the different types of okra you can try in your own garden.
- Red Burgundy
- Silver Queen Okra
- Star of David
- Cow Horn
- Hill Country Heirloom Red etc.
When to Plant Okra?
Okra is a warm weather crop. A full sunny spot is ideal for the plant. If you are from the cooler region don’t plant okra till the weather warms up. Cold weather can actually kill your plant. The ideal temperature for growing okra is between 220C-320C, and it should never go below 120C.
They thrive in different soil conditions, but it is best to plant okra in a well-drained soil, especially that is rich in organic materials.
How To Grow Okra From Seeds?
While growing okra from the seeds, the first thing you will notice is that the seeds are much bigger than some of the other vegetables and so, it is quite easy to handle.
Before planting, soak okra seeds in warm water. You can either sow them directly in the garden soil or you can choose to first grow the seedling indoor, and then transplant them into the garden. If you are considering the second option, use some seedling tray available at the market and use coir or peat moss as the growing medium. Mix a generous amount of compost along with the soil before planting.
Okras can resist drought and heat very well. But inch deep water weekly is ideal for best pod production. Use organic mulch to protect the water in the soil.
Okra plants generally get large and it also spread its branches. So you need to do some thinning once the plants reach a height of 6”. It is recommended to leave at least 18 to 24 inches gap between two okra plants. In case the plants don’t get enough space to grow, the production of the pods will greatly suffer.
If you have used compost you don’t need to add any more fertilizer. Okra plants grow very quickly, especially once the pods starts coming. The pods can grow within 3 to 4 days. It appears first on the basis of the plant and goes upwards. A standardly sized plant can grow up to 6 to 8 feet.
Pest and Diseases of Okra Plants:
Some of the most troublesome pests of an okra plant are
- Looper caterpillars,
- Mites, and,
- Green vegetable bugs.
One of the most effective ways to protect your plant is to monitor closely.
Most common form of diseases associated with okra plants are:
- Yellowing of older leaves and wilting,
- Powdery mildew, and,
- Spots around leaves due to fungal attacks.
Careful harvesting is a key to success in growing okra. Okra plants have spines. It is not wise to harvest pods bare hand. They can be scratchy and irritating. It is always a good idea to use gloves while harvesting the pods.
When to harvest okra:
The best time to harvest is when the pods are 2-4 inches in length. Depending on the varieties, it generally takes 10 weeks for the pods to reach that size. At this time they the tender and tasty. Though sometimes larger sized pods are also tender and can be used as food. The best way to check its tenderness is by snapping off the end tip of the pod. It will not snap in case the pods have become fibrous.
Pick the fruits into a waist bag. It will reduce the damage.
Keep picking the pods every 2-3 days and there will be a new one in its place. Regular picking is almost essential for maximum okra yields. If you left mature pods on the plant, it will reduce flowering and fruit set.
Like many other vegetables, okra is also best when eaten fresh. You can also store them in a refrigerator for a week. Check out vegetable storing tips in this article.
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